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Travel Photography | Napa, CA

I’m catching up on old shelved projects and photos that were shoved to the bottom of my list during the busy season.  This list includes these stunning photos from Napa, CA from this past Fall.  I was there to photograph Adam and Tracey’s wedding on a private estate in the area and spent the extra days visiting with my friend Jessica and her girlfriends and eating pastries from Bouchon.  I’m anxious to get book for another Napa Destination Wedding so I have a reason to return!

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Napa Destination Wedding Photography | Adam Plus Tracey

It is no secret that New Orleans is my favorite city in the world.

When I discovered that Adam and Tracey were from New Orleans, I basically did a second line through my house.

When I arrived on site and heard someone use the word “caddywhompus” I died and went to heaven.   “Do you know that I am the only person in California who has ever used that word until now!” I exclaimed.

Adam and Tracey had a small, intimate destination wedding surrounded by their friends and family members on a private estate in Napa and everything about it was exceedingly comfortable.   Adam’s brother officiated the ceremony.  Tracey and I share a love for Amazon Prime.  The cake was flown in from New Orleans: maple peanut caramel deliciousness from a baker that Adam once professed that he would marry he loved the cake so much.

Tracey and Adam were so at ease with each other.  We went gallivanting into the vines for photo opportunities and they laughed, giggled, and conversed as if I wasn’t even there.  It was the perfect venue for a perfect couple and an awesome family from Louisiana that made me feel right at home.

That is why I love New Orleans so much: because everything about her and her people instantly make me feel home.

Dear Adam and Tracey, thank you so much for choosing me to photograph your day!

I taste good

I hopped over to Los Angeles this week to rendezvous with my best mate after working at El Tour de Tucson.  We had a serious weekend of wine drinking, cooking and relaxing on our agenda.  The first stop on Saturday: LA’s Wine House, which had the biggest selection of regionally organized Italian Wines I’d ever seen.  They also had a ton of  harder to find favorites like Patz & Hall.  What caught my eye, however, was this gem:

“THAT’S MY NAME!” I yelled.  The sales agent unpacking wine on the aisle laughed and said I better buy it.  I was a little expensive – $30 on sale down from $55.  At least I know my worth is significant.

I couldn’t find a ton of information about Lindley Wines online.  Their website is still under construction.  Despite the fact that owners Jake and Frankie Lindley just started making wines (2011 was their first vintage), the wine was surprising smooth and quite delightful (I would expect me to be a bit more bitter and snappy).

End of story: I’d buy me again.  Or maybe they should just give me some.

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Tahoe Event Photography | Women’s Wellness Weekend at Granlibakken

I had such an inspiring and educational weekend accompanied by wine and amazing food at the Granlibakken Resort’s Women’s Wellness Weekend.

The Women’s Wellness Weekend focuses on providing the fusion of Western practices with Eastern philosophy to provide women with information, inspiration, activities,  and great female company.  This is an awesome opportunity for any woman, but especially for those in the medical field.  For an additional $75, healthcare professionals can earn nine hours of CE credit at this amazing weekend getaway in the stunning Tahoe basin.

Granlibakken is a gorgeous resort.  Conveniently located in picturesque Tahoe City, CA, it offers tons of trails for hiking and mountain biking in the summer, a tree-top Adventure Park, a spa, and, in the winter, nordic skiing.  There is a plethora of rooms, units, condos and even large houses available for everyone from the single occupant to an entire family to come stay and enjoy the Tahoe area.

Although I was there to photograph the event, I learned so much from the presenters and I found more than a few of them to be fascinating.  Tahoe City based nutritionist, dietician, and triathlete Jill Whistler specializes in sports nutrition and really reinforced my own personal thoughts regarding nutrition and the best eating habits to fuel your body.  Nueropsychologist Suzanne Aberasturi, Ph.D provided us with a hilarious guide to how your brain develops and grows with age.  Mel Pohl, MD, FASAM is a family practitioner and the ice President of Medical Affairs and the Medical Director of Las Vegas Recovery Center.  His presentation on the disease of addiction was enthralling, surprising and peppered with humor.  I had the pleasure of dining with who is now going to be my new dermatologist: Dr. Jennifer Janiga.  She was a refreshing, gorgeous person who gave a fantastic presentation on healthy skin.

My favorite presentation of the weekend came from Joyce Mikal-Flynn, Ed. D, RN, FNP, MSN, a marathon runner and triathlete, who survived a sudden death in 1990 requiring 22 minutes of CPR.  She released a book, Turning Tragedy into Triumph MetaHabilitation: A Contemporary Model of Recovery which presents her system of rehabilitation.  Mrs. Mikal-Flynn spoke about what happens to people when they suffer life changing events and why some are able to turn their tragedies into triumph when others cannot.   I found her presentation to be particularly inspiring.  As an athlete myself, I wonder how I would react if faced with a similar circumstance.

In addition to the lectures and presentations, the weekend also offered various physical activities such as yoga, zumba and ki gong, as well as, social hours, lots of wine, a health expo, and shopping from local artisans.

The 2014 Women’s Wellness Weekend will be held on November 8 and 9, 2014.  If you register before the end of 2013, you can lock in this year’s super reasonable rate which includes all the Women’s Wellness Weekend Activities, one night lodging, hot buffet breakfasts, 2 lunches, and use of the pool/sauna/hot tub.

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Destination Wedding | A Bachelorette Party in Temecula

I know I don’t have to tell you that one of my favorite things in the world is wine.

I’ll tell you again.

I love wine.

So, when I received the amazingly cute invitation for my best mate Haley’s Bachelorette Day in Temecula Wine Country, you know I was excited.  Haley’s Maid of Honor did an abfab job of planning a day for all of the women: a limo tour of wine country, complete with tastings at four vineyards, a delicious lunch at The Pinnacle at Falkner Winery, and just when we thought it couldn’t get better, dinner at Public House on Main Street in Old Town Temecula.

Haley

Our first stop on the tour was Briar Rose Winery, a vineyard with a very interesting story: in the 1970′s, a Disney employee responsible for the construction of Disneyland’s Fantasyland and Toon Town, Beldon Fields purchased land in Temecula and built replicas of Snow White’s cottage for his wife.  Flash forward to the 1990′s.  Les and Dorian Linkogle purchase the estate from the Fields, promising not to change the Snow White Cottages.  Today, the family grows Viognier, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling grapes and make wine.  Dorian, who is an absolute delight, greeted us personally at our limo door, ushered us inside and gave Haley a beautiful story about marriage, what will make it work and how a simple rose will help her get through the tough times.  It was a wonderfully memorable experience.

Our next stop was Falkner Winery, which sits atop a 1500 foot hill that offers unparalleled views of the grapevine filled valley below.  I really enjoyed their Viognier, one of my favorite grapes, which was done in a style a bit more similar to the dryer versions I am used to here in El Dorado County .  We also ate lunch at Falkner in their on site restaurant, The Pinnacle (menu here).  The reviews on Yelp are a bit all over the place, but I can say with confidence that I enjoyed my meal.  I would recommend the Apple and Walnut Baked Brie and the Seafood Portofino.

Our next stop was my favorite from the day: Leoness Cellars.  The wine was stunning and the service was spectacular.  They ushered us into a private tasting room where Dawn explained everything from how certain wines are made, how long they age, what the names of ridiculously large bottles are, how we should eat port and chocolates, to the history of the vineyard and it’s grapes.  We loved it and of all the wineries I visited this day, Leoness is the one I recommend the most.  My favorites included the Viognier, the Melange de Reves, the Meritage, the Syrah, and finally, to be consumed with truffles, the Cinsaut Desert Wine.

Our last stop on the winery tour was Wilson Creek Winery which won extra bonus points for having the owner’s dog wandering around.  Their list of wines is as extensive as their property and choosing just four to taste was difficult.

Last but certainly not least of the day was our dinner at Public House, whose menu was so extensive and amazing sounding that we all ordered WAY too much food.  Their mac’n’cheese changes EVERY DAY.  EVERY DAY.   They have MF’ing grilled romaine.  And they made me a real margarita.  Also, they have a kobe beef burger on the menu and it explicitly says that the chef will not cook it well done, so don’t ask.  Legit.

Want your own Temecula Wine Tasting Day?

RIDE:

  • There are plenty of limo and tour countries in Temecula.  For $105 a person, tastings included, 8 of us cruised around in style for 10 full hours thanks to Sunset Limo Wine Tours.  Our day included a complimentary bottle of champagne to get our morning started right and souvenir wine glasses.

EAT:

  • Holy gastro-pub Batman, I would travel to Temecula to eat at Public House.  Not kidding.  Their outdoor patio was perfectly comfortable and inviting, the beer and wine list inventive and local and their menu overwhelming in its awesomeness.
  • Falkner Winery’s Pinnacle Restaurant is a wise choice if you are spending all day tasting. I enjoyed both the meal and the view and while it’s no Public House, it’s an enjoyable place to eat.

DRINK:

  • Our day included tastings at Briar Rose Winery, Falkner, Leoness Cellars and Wilson Creek Vineyards, but you can incorporate any of the Temecula Valley Wine Growers Association Vineyards and Wineries into your choices for the day.  It’s almost like you get to choose your own adventure.  No, wait, it’s exactly like you get to choose your own adventure.

Destination Wedding Preview | Haley + Dave

 Is there anyone more beautiful and stylish than my best mate?

The answer is clearly and emphatically NO.

I can’t wait to share photos with you from our wonderful weekend in Temecula to celebrate her marriage to a man that I also love very much.  I’m so happy they found each other.  I’m so happy they wed.  I’m so happy she hired a really talented photographer to shoot the ceremony and reception because it meant I got to dance so hard I got blisters on my toes.  I’m so happy I was able to wine and dine and play and laugh and love with my friend and her friends on such a special weekend.

Until I finish, there’s this to tide you over.

Reason #4,876 why Haley is my best mate: she laughs as loud as I do.

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Tahoe Event Photography | Sample the Sierra

Sample the Sierra is a classic and iconic Tahoe event beloved by locals and tourists alike.  Until this year, I’d never actually been able to attend since it always occurs on Labor Day weekend, which is historically very busy in my shop.  This year, I had my favorite reason as an excuse to attend: I was the official event photographer.  You know my favorite jobs always involve wine!

Patricks Berry Farm Produce at the 4th Annual Sample the Sierra.

Sample the Sierra celebrates our regions best of the best in food, wine and artisan vendors.  The event is a collaborative effort between the Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and El Dorado County and celebrates the bounty and the heritage of the Sierra Nevada region.  The festival aims to build flourishing partnerships within the County as well as promoting its geo-tourism assets.  Mark your calendar for 2014 for the Sunday before Labor Day and come on down to Ski Run Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe and see what El Dorado County has to offer!  Your admission price includes wine and beer tastings along with food samples from local Tahoe restaurants.  While you dine and mingle, meander around the artisan tents to check out their awesome wares or listen to free live music!

Tahoe Ridge Winery has a tasting room in Minden!

You can see the photos I took from the day over on the Sample the Sierra Facebook page.  There is an album for general photos and an album for the 2nd Annual Chef Challenge!

A few of my favorite Tahoe vendors were in attendance. You can’t go wrong with any of these guys!

Diane and Amber dished out french toast and wine. The Getaway Cafe is Boyfriend and my favorite breakfast spot!

Matt and Jen of The Yum Truck are one of my favorite Tahoe vendors. Their grub is unbelievable and their spirit is unmatched. I highly recommend them for events and to cater Tahoe Weddings!

Of Bicycles and Summer | Road Cycling in Tahoe

Lookit what I found.

Acheson Art Wine Goblets.

It’s WINE GLASSES WITH BICYCLES ON THEM.

I had to have them of course!

I found them at Velo Vino in Napa, but you can apparently buy them online AND get pilsner glasses with bicycles on them also.  The glasses are hand blown, thin and large enough to make me feel “fancy” while I’m drinking my wine at night at home.  Yes.  That’s right: I like to drink wine out of giant goblets so that I feel fancy every night.

Terry takes a break on the bridge overlooking the West Fork of the Carson River in Hope Valley, CA

In other bicycling related stories, I managed to get out on a bike ride that lasted longer than 45 minutes with my friend Terry this week.  We went up and over Luther Pass to Hope Valley and then cruised back up the Old Luther Hwy to the top.  It’s such a gorgeous ride and I was super stoked to have some company.  Pardon the iphone photos.  Needless to say, I don’t carry my fancy camera with me everywhere.

Cruising up Old Luther Hwy in Hope Valley, CA.

If you’ve never road biked over Luther Pass, make sure you do it via the local’s route:  climb up South Upper Truckee Rd through the campground to the top of Luther, descent hwy 89 down into Hope Valley, head west at Pickett’s Junction and then turn into the USFS parking lot for the fishing platforms.  Ride the path for the fishing platforms across the bridge and it will turn into the Old Luther Hwy, which you can climb (but not descend) back up to the top of the pass.  Drop down Hwy 89 back into Meyers for a really fast descent with wide open corners and smooth pavement.

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A Napa Girls Weekend

The email said, “You’re invited to help create the best 3 days of your life.”

With an intro like that, how could anyone refuse?

What we had the best of intentions to do was to road cycle every morning, followed by cooking amazing meals and then lounging about by pools in the afternoon with some wine tasting mixed in.  See, after all that road biking in the mornings, we would be tired and worn out and oh so deserving of the extra glasses of wine that night.

What we actually did was sleep in every day, lounge about the house in an unmotivated fashion until we cooked amazing meals, went wine tasting, lounged by pools and drank more wine than we deserved because we hadn’t done anything that day to warrant drinking extra wine.

However, no one cared in the least and we were all sublimely happy.

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On our first afternoon there, one of the ladies arranged for us to relax by her AMAZING pool overlooking picturesque vineyards as the sun set.

But wait – it gets better.

On top of that, she hired friends of hers who are masseuses to come give us hour long massages and oh, yes, just wait, it gets better!

In between giving us massages, lounging by the pool, drinking wine and laughing as the sun went down, they cooked us a huge meal of authentic Vietnamese food.

HEAVEN.

Montages-3On the 2nd day, we had grand plans to get up and go road biking but instead we slept in, lounged around, read books, had a late ladies lunch and then visited my good friend James, who is the Assistant Winemaker at Patz and Hall, a small winery with superb Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

That evening, we had a girls dinner at the house where Jessica who has secret powers as an amazing chef whipped up a most ridiculous dinner of bruschetta on grilled bread, pasta and Caesar salad with home made dressing.

It should go without saying that there were many bottles of wine consumed.

Montages-2Our last day, we had grand plans to go road biking again but instead opted to visit Jessica at her vineyard.  We had some time to kill so we wandered about the grounds of Beringer for a bit.  I tend to dismiss Beringer wines on the whole simply because of their massive popularity but I would highly recommend a venture around their Historic property.  The Beringer vineyards are the oldest operating vineyard in the area and some of the structures date back to 1850!

Jessica works Sullivan Vineyards, an amazing little boutique vineyard smack in downtown Rutherford.  The home and property on which it stands are breathtaking and the history behind the family owned vineyard is fascinating.  They have some awesome value wines (my favorite was their dry rosè, Pink Ink).

Want your own Napa Valley Girls Weekend?

STAY:

  • The fresh, charming and bright Calistoga Wine Way Inn is a no frills location with rooms from $99 within walking distance of downtown Calistoga.
  • Napa Valley is notoriously expensive for hotel rooms and the prices are kept high from the lack of properties.  That being said, Airbnb is picking up in popularity there and you can rent this bright, airy and beautiful home that sleeps 8 in St. Helena for $250/night.  Bonus: floor to ceiling views of Meadowood Valley and when it says it sleeps 8 it means it: there are four queen beds in the home.

PLAY:

  • The roads in Napa are gorgeous for road cycling but you’ll want to stay off the main highway.  Check out this list of popular road biking routes or head into Vino Velo, owned by the Clif Family to get their take on the best cycling route for you.  They offer free maps with the best rides of various distances on them and a staff that is knowledgable about cycling in the area.  While you’re there, pick up some bicycle themed stuff (I walked out with some gorgeous wine glasses with bikes on them) or some of their tasty jams, nuts or olive oils.  Don’t skip a tasting of bread dipped in olive oil and rolled in the pistachio dukkah – it’s to die for.
  • In nearby Calistoga there is a ton of hot springs to relax in.   Head to the mineral water pools at the Calistoga Spa Hot Spings after 7 p.m., when the entrance fee is only $10.  Bring a picnic dinner and some wine to enjoy poolside.

EAT:

  • The Rutherford Grill is always a staple: not too pricy, with a killer wine list and something on the menu that everyone will love.  I’m a sucker for their homemade veggie burger, which to this day is still the best veggie burger I’ve ever had in my life.  Bold statement, I know.  I will say, they almost lured me in this time with the Butternut Squash Enchiladas but I held firm to my thirst for that burger, which I’ve been dreaming about eating again ever since I first visited in 2009.
  • Oenotri is unbelievably delicious. From their fresh homemade pastas, to their inventive salads to the unbelievably perfect thin crust pizzas, it was everything I needed from my lunch that day. If you order one of each salad and one of each pizza for the table, you won’t be disappointed.

DRINK:

  • Cakebread has always been one of my favorite go-to wines.  Their stainless steel aged Chardonnay is well known.  Their tastings are by appointment only as well.
  • Frog’s Leap will always hold a place near and dear in my heart and not only because their Zinfandel is such a killer wine.  Their tasting is unique, extremely in depth and full of quirk and character.  By appointment only.